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Does breast feeding protect the infants from obesity


We have seen that the childhood obesity the last few years has increased dramatically. In our days one third of children in United States over the age of 2 are overweight (Lawrence, 2010) and this is a global problem that will become very crucial since children from young age will have serious problems with their health. We have to consider that if children have a bad nutrition from a young age it will contribute to the problem and so many other issues will appear later like diabetes and cholesterol. Scientists are trying to find several ways to reduce this problem so that people can help their children to avoid obesity and therefore have a good nutrition so that they will be healthier later on. Researching about this subject, they found one way, which is uncertain yet, but may help and this is the breast feeding of infants. Breast feeding is the most popular issue that scientists are searching and by several studies they have some figures proving that breastfeeding is a useful way to start for the reduction in obesity. Trying to solve this question I find several articles and researches that refer in this subject and will help to get an opinion for this issue.

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Obesity is a national problem that is increasing year by year. People do not consider about the later problems that obesity will cause and hence they do not care about their nutrition. But after some time problems in their health occur which makes them realised that obesity is a very serious issue. So as we become aware of the issue of obesity it is not just how to look good on the outside, but is more how healthy we are on the inside.

Therefore, creating awareness on how careful we have to be in our nutrition and especially in considering about our children, who have to know about all the problems that obesity will cause, in order to protect them from it! At present, nearly 8% of children 4 to 5 years of age in the United States are overweight. (Williams et al, 2001). We can see that a huge number of obese children are preschool. We have to take emergency measures because if this situation keeps on going, everyday more and more people will suffer from obesity, especially children.

Statistically a lot of children get obese in very young age. About 22 millions of children in the word suffer from obesity (Williams et al, 2001). As we can see from the figure illustrated below the number of obese children is almost doubled the last decades. These figures do not increase only in United States but also across Europe. From the following graph we observe that from 1970 till almost 2000 the number of children that are obese changes severely. During this time a dramatically increase occurs but the worst is that this number increases more year by year.

From a research of the University of Glasgow we can see that as children grow up the percentage of obesity increases (Reilly and Dorosty, 1999).

Children in their young age will have cholesterol blood pressure problems and type2 diabetes which lately is very popular in many countries. Type2 diabetes is becoming dominant form (Reilly and Dorosty, 1999). Scientists who are studying this phenomenon have found that type 2 diabetes in children increased dramatically and this is a problem caused mostly from obesity. In earlier years this problem occurred mostly in older people but in our days, due to a unhealthy lifestyle and nutrition in comparison to the past, it has appeared in children as well. If obesity begins early in life, when they are infants, then the probabilities that those infants will be obese in there adulthood will be very high (Goran, 2001)! For this reason we have to find ways to protect our children from this issue since parents are the ones responsible for the health of their children.

We have to be protective about our children since they are infants. A good strategy to reduce the risk of obesity is the breast feeding. After experiments and long research, scientists discover that breast-feeding might confer protection against obesity. Although this theory is uncertain, breast feeding is a good way to protect the children from later obesity since is natural and provides the safest, most economic and convenient way to promote infant health and nutrition on a global way (Clifford, 2001).

We all know that breast milk contains a lot of proteins that protect the infants from diseases as it thrives a good immune system. Breast milk also contains vitamins, fats and carbohydrates that are responsible for the development of the brain, antibodies, living cells, enzymes and hormones. But most of the people are not inform that breast milk also contains a metabolic hormone that is useful for the children to not be obese later on. That hormone is leptin and present in breast milk. We can find this hormone in high levels in breast milk but not in infant formula. So it will not be the same for infants if they breast fed or take that infant formula, since infant formula lacks this hormone and so infants will not be able to intake it.

Leptin is a metabolic hormone that is produced by antipose cells and is known as an obese gene (Henson and Castracane, 2000). In pregnant women the concentration of leptin increases more than non pregnant women. Although it is an obese gene, human research discovered that leptin in breast milk is very advantageous for infants. It protects them from several diseases but mostly from excess weight increase later. During food intake of infants, leptin helps the absorption system to be more favourable to carbohydrates instead of fats and lipids. As a result infants when they grow up will be healthier and their digestive and absorption system will be developing on the basis of the intake of carbohydrates instead of fats and lipids, resulting in a reduction of the risk of obesity later on their adulthood.

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Breast feeding is an enormous issue that scientist try to certificate if can reduce the obesity in children. A study in Scotland in 1998-1999 occurs to find out if breastfeeding will be a good strategy to reduce the risk of obesity in children. By taking a large number of infants (about 32200) born in 1995-1996 and recording their sex, birth weight and height, they see how many of them have been breastfed, fed on formula, or both, as infants and then when the babies were around 39-42 months they calculate how many of those children get obese.

The UK 1990 reference represents the normalised distribution of BMI for age and sex of British children in 1990, and any BMI can be expressed relative to the mean in the form of an SD score (J Amstrong, J J Reilly et al, 2002). With this method they found out the number of children who take part in this research who were obese. Children who had 1.64 or more BMI are referred to as obese. The results of this search are shown in the following table;

As we can see from this data, the number of breastfed children had lower risk of obesity compared with children fed by formula. The odd ratio between the 2 samples was 0.78. Although we know that this kind of research has numerous limitations (such as genetic variations between sampled infants), we can partially conclude that breastfeeding affects the obesity rates in infants.

From another research basis on this issue we can see that children who are breastfed more have higher possibilities to reduce the risk of obesity. By a cross sectional study people find that when infants breast fed more, the risk of obesity is lower than in the infants which breast fed less. In this study the taken samples show that 2631 children born in 1991 from British families in 1958, were observed from the ages of 4 years old until 18. Much more lower number than the previous experiment so we can see that it will have more limitation. They look how long they breast fed and they had the below results:

They found the body mass index and the obesity of children in 1990 and then they compared it by the duration of breast feeding by their mothers after a year. By using the mean of BMI they were able to identify the children that were obese. Like the previous research scientists record birth weight and BMI of children, and also they look if the infant’s mother was smoking during her pregnancy, and the BMI of one of the parents.

As we can see from the above table, children which are breastfed for less than a week have much more possibilities to be obese than children which are breast fed more. So by using this table we can say that children which are breast fed for more than 1 week are more than half of the children which were sampled. From those children only 207 are obese. According to the numbers of children that participated in this research 207 is a small number.

A lot of other studies occur like the previous studies, but some of them they do not support the theory that breastfeeding will be affect and reduce obesity in infants.


A lot of other studies occur like the previous studies, but some of them they do not support the theory that breastfeeding will be affect and reduce obesity in infants.

The affect that breastfeeding has on obesity is a controversial subject, which is why many articles and studies are available and are continuously being published. Although most of the results from the researches show that breastfeeding reduce the risk of obesity, this theory will still be uncertain.

From the articles and the researches that I have read I believe that breastfeeding is a good way to start to tackle this enormous issue of obesity. Breastfeeding protects our children from many illnesses and helps them to gain a lot of nutrients that will be useful for their development. So it is a good strategy to use for the reducing of obesity, and it does not cause at all. I think that we have to research this theory more so that will not be uncertain anymore and people can depend on this theory. Also it will help to develop our knowledge more so that later on we will be more careful about obesity in our children. We have to move on and try to combat the obesity issue, since obesity will cause a lot of problems in our health. We can do this by informing more about issues that can help to reduce this problem like breastfeeding and so on.

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